What it Means to be an Officer

My husband Larry and I retired five years ago after 34 years and 16 days of Salvation Army officership. In our time as ministers of the gospel, we were called, as Meredith Wilson described it, to “love the unloved, never reckoning the cost.” Our officership was a hybrid role, combining the duties of pastor, administrator, cook, and chief-bottle-washer. As an active corps officer serving in Canton, Ohio, one day, I sat down and wrote these words about my experinces:

As I dragged into the corps parking lot a few nights ago at about 9:30 p.m., after a long day of working in the building and a night of driving to the Cleveland airport and back, I returned from shopping for a dinner for 160. As I was about to unload all of those groceries, these words burst out of my mouth: “I love being a corps officer.” As exhausted as I was, there was no edge of flesh-eating sarcasm to my words. I do truly love being a corps officer.

Why? How, indeed, do I love thee? Let me count the ways. First, because as a corps officer of a thriving urban center in mid-America, there is literally never a dull moment. I never know what any given day will bring when I enter the Army building. This week, we’ve had visits from the County Commissioners, a German television crew filming a documentary on economic conditions in Ohio, postal fraud agents investigating a robbery across the street and a donor with a check for more than $6000. We’ve received donations of six skids of chocolate, jars of pennies from a first grade class, and 80 head of ostrich (alive). I never know when the opportunity will come to dry a tear, calm a fear or to plead a penitent’s prayer with another. I have some ADD tendencies, and I seem to fit right in!

Secondly, I love what I do because I learn so much from the people I meet. For a long time, I thought I was doing this because of what I could do for other people, for the less fortunate. Ah, the arrogance of that thinking. Of course, it’s Jesus who does the work, but I’ve also come to realize I know so little, and I need so badly to receive from my brothers and sisters who, by my position, I am supposed to lead. I am learning about doing unto others from Jim, and about walking in faith from Maxine. I am learning how to weep from Carie, and how to wrestle with demons from Frank. Others help me to forgive, to be generous and to sing when I don’t feel like singing. They teach me, too, about baby steps, about accepting what I can’t change and about having courage to do what I must do. I learn every day from the people God directs through the doors of The Salvation Army.

I also love being a corps officer because I am privileged to witness daily the faithfulness of God. He continues to provide and protect, heal and restore. Our pantry shelves groan under the weight of 350,000 pounds of food each year, and we have not suffered Old Mother Hubbard’s fate, for there is always something to give. When we needed vegetables for a special dinner, they came, with carrots the first day, then broccoli and finally fresh cauliflower to make up the California medley. Four auto accidents in one month (none their own fault) plagued our staff, but no serious injuries. An invasive brain tumor fell into the surgeon’s hand, and we claimed it as the miracle it was. Men and women who have escaped from the pit of Hell have found redemption and recovery. God has not only shown up, He has hosted the party and allowed us to sing along with the angel choir.

I love being a corps officer because it allows me to be who I am. I can preach in my own style, I can make music as a part of my job and I can explore the Scriptures daily. I can be a bookworm at times (lots of times, according to my kids). I can think up new ideas and watch as staff team members implement them. I get to hold the new babies; eat some of that donated chocolate; give the gift of words, cookies and care and make chicken broccoli casserole. I can be tough and tender, courageous and vulnerable, and even outrageous once in a while. I can be at rest, winsome, passionate, free and filled with hope. I know who I am in Christ, and I can bring that woman to work with me!

Most of all, I love being a corps officer because I have been privileged to be a pastor to a people. When I was ordained, I claimed this verse from Acts 20:28: “Take heed, therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (KJV). Now I know they are God’s church, His chosen people, but this little flock belongs to me and to Larry too. We’ve been there when the babies have been born and when the saints have died. We’ve been there when the addict has fallen one more time, and we’ve felt the sting of betrayal when the one we’ve trusted has stabbed us in the back. We’ve wept late into the night, sat in twenty-four hour diners, prayed ‘til the sun came up, and welcomed new believers into the Family. I have dozens of sons and daughters; scores of sisters and brothers and lots of adopted mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. I’m blessed indeed.

From the perspective of more than a dozen years, the experience of these words is now only a memory, but they again affirm why I loved being a corps officer. Yet what I continue to discover day by day is that retirement doesn’t strip me of ministry; it simply redefines the playing field, it widens the path. The promise to love and serve God supremely all my days remains intact, as does the promise God gave to us at the beginning of our ministry. In the words of Annie Johnson Flint: “He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater, He sendeth more strength as our labors increase.” That’s what it means to me to be a Salvation Army officer.

Major JoAnne Shade resides in Ashland, OH

Head, Hands & Heart: Life as a Cadet at Evangeline Booth College

How do you train to be a community organizer, teacher, disaster responder, counselor, administrator and minister—in other words, a Salvation Army officer—in two years, and who are the people that answer this calling? I had come to Evangeline Booth College (EBC) in Atlanta to find out. There, I spent several days with the cadets at the School for Officer Training (SFOT) sharing meals, sitting in classes, listening to their stories and watching them work in the community.

During my first evening on campus, after a quick tour of its beautiful grounds, I sat down for a meal in the Cadet Dining Room with several second-year cadets, including my host for that evening, Cadet Gavin Yeatts. As soon as I came to the dining room, I could see that some of my assumptions about officer training were wrong. I had expected that all cadets would be recent high school or college graduates, probably single with perhaps a few recently married couples who had heard God’s call on their lives together. But around the room, I could see a range of ages among cadets, and several tables with highchairs and strollers parked nearby.

As I spoke to the cadets, I learned that they came from many different professional, educational, national, and experiential backgrounds. Some arrive with a GED, some come with a BA, a JD, or even a PhD, but all are joined by shared goals: to become the best and most effective officers they can be and to serve God with their entire lives through the Salvation Army. For these two years at EBC, they form a close-knit, extended family, who support one another, pray for one another, teach one another and of course, share meals together.

Money donated by a neighborhood woman during the canteen run.

After dinner, all of the remaining unserved food was gathered together and placed on a canteen truck to be distributed in the surrounding community. A volunteer from the local corps, who Gavin introduced to me as Mr. Charles, was already loading the last of the food onto the truck when we came outside.

Our first stop was only a short drive away. When we arrived, one or two cadets stayed near the canteen to help Mr. Charles serve food and lemonade, while the rest went off down the street, food and drinks in hand, to knock on the doors of people they knew on the block.

Already, I was beginning to see that EBC wasn’t a traditional college experience. The cadets were not living in an academic bubble, separated from the surrounding community—as is the case with many colleges—instead, they are a part of the community and a positive influence within it.

At our second canteen location, one woman stopped to offer a donation of what money she had in her pocket. Gavin told her that they hadn’t come here to look for donations, but she insisted. He accepted the coins, and said that her money would do more good than she could know. He and the other cadets joined hands and prayed with her before she continued on her way. Soon we had run out of food to give, but people stayed to chat and express their gratitude for the Army’s work in the area as the sun went down.

While handing out food from a canteen truck, cadets pray with a woman who stopped to give a donation.

For the next few days, I had the opportunity to sit in on classes at EBC and speak to more cadets and staff. I learned a few things about Old Testament scripture and history, Employment Law, Music, the New Testament and Pastoral Care along the way.

Each weekday, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., cadets are in classes or out getting experiential training by working in corps or at other ministry opportunities. These days are tightly scheduled, with only Thursday afternoons left free for catch-up time and perhaps running a few errands. Fortunately, EBC provides for many of the cadets’ needs right on campus. They have high-quality catered lunch and dinner options every weekday with brunch on weekends, a well-equipped wellness center, drop-off dry-cleaning, a very strong childcare program with staff on campus and even a teen center for cadets with older children. I was especially curious about how cadets with children were able to manage their studies and family life together in this environment, so I spoke to Luis and Marianne Villanueva, who have two young children.

They told me that child care services are provided on campus and matched with each family’s schedule so that cadets don’t have to worry who will watch their kids when things get busy or when off-campus training runs late. But even during the busy times, the Villanuevas are able to set aside time for family with a little planning on their part.

“Even in this structure, we find time to spend as a couple, as a family, and even some time separately, but you have to be intentional about it, Luis said. “Because if you get stressed out and all you think about is homework, you’re going to burn out.”

Walking the grounds, you can see the care cadets take in their work detail duties in keeping the campus clean and the landscaping free of weeds or trash. If you step into the well-equipped wellness center, you’ll see cadets working out either alone or with Kevin, the on-site personal trainer who tracks cadets’ health and nutrition throughout their two years at the college.

“Because of the type of work that we do it can get very heady, and then working with people it can be very hard—it’s taxing on your emotions, on your health, on everything,” said Cadet Mark Cancia. “So to be able to work out and focus on something else is really helpful for me. It’s like getting away without really getting away.”

But even the more “heady” parts of training at EBC take the same holistic approach to teaching. On my second day at EBC I was able to see Major Dean Hinson, Principal of EBC, teach a New Testament class exploring the book of Acts and related church history. Class discussion was not focused on theology and history alone—it was also practical. As the class explored differences between the Pharisees and Sadducees through Acts, questions about modern ideas of holiness and how to navigate those issues in cadets’ own ministries were also discussed.

“The trick of holiness is being in the world but not of the world,” Major Hinson said. Not to separate yourself completely from the world by becoming too focused on rules or appearances as the Pharisees did, but to live an authentic holiness.

Major Roni Robbins, director of curriculum, gathered with her Pastoral Care class to take a selfie.

This theme of living an authentic faith was echoed throughout my visit at EBC. In the next class, Pastoral Care, Major Roni Robbins urged her cadets to foster authenticity in their ministry. To be less concerned with appearances and more concerned with real connections between people.

“Be who you really are and it will free people to be themselves around you as well,” she said.

To support one another in this, cadets were given the chance to discuss their fears at the end of class and to pray for one another over those fears. This kind of support seemed built into every class and activity I witnessed during my visit.

Major Robbins is also director of curriculum for the SFOT, and she told me these connections between classes and between cadets are far from coincidental. She said that EBC aims for a holistic style of learning that follows Catherine Booth’s idea of training the head, the hands and the heart together.

“We’re not just trying to connect the dots from class to class, we’re trying to connect the dots to real situations outside of this place,” she said.

At EBC, cadets are immersed in a special kind of environment that not only teaches and tests them, but also supports and provides for them in ways that a traditional college or seminary experience would not. Whether they are on campus in classes or out in the community getting hands-on ministry experience, this is a special time where worries about errands or childcare are reduced so cadets can focus on training. I asked the Villanuevas what they had learned as a family through their journey to training and during their time at EBC. For them, this commitment to officership is about trust.

“When you give your life, your commitment to God, He will take care of the rest,” Luis said. “Whatever else you need, He will take care of that. The only thing you need to do is focus on what He needs you to do. And that’s what we’re doing here.”

Mr. Nick Holder is editorial assistant for the Publications Department at National Headquarters.

Island Warfare: Chuuk State

Who would think that on the beautiful island of Weno, Chuuk State—a paradise at first glance, many children are hungry and sickly, and some die due to severe malnutrion? The Salvation Army has been operating here in the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM) for 20 years. The work started when, thanks to mutual acquaintances, Lieutenant Mike Eyers met with Hermes Otis, then a pastor in Weno, Chuuk. When Eyers explained the Army’s mission, Otis was excited about the impact the Army might have in Chuuk. He was hired to plant a corps and begin prison ministry and then provided relief following major storms that swept through the area. Otis and his wife Rufina eventually rose to the rank of captain. Major John Chamness, divisional commander, says, “Without the Otises there would be no Salvation Army in Chuuk.”

Through the years, the Army focused mainly on spiritual development through its corps activities and social services through distribution of material assistance and food parcels.

DISCOVERING A HEALTH CRISIS

In the three years that we served on the island, we observed that most of the children at our children’s meeting appeared thin, pale and weak and had difficulty learning. Nine and ten year-olds struggled to write their names, let alone read and write simple words in their own language.

Our research showed that these problems are caused by severe malnourishment. Most families do not serve the balanced diet children need for healthy minds and bodies. We also observed that at some of our Sunday fellowship meals, where members are encouraged to bring their local food, they bring canned fish, processed meats and local foods heavy in carbohydrates; foods like taro, yam, cooked banana and breadfruit. One fisherman sells his catch in order to buy sardines for his family’s meal.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nutrient deficiencies are common in the Pacific Islands. In 15 of 16 countries surveyed, more than one-fifth of children and pregnant women were anemic. About 40% of the region’s population of 9.7 million people has been diagnosed with a non-communicable disease, notably cardiovascular disease, diabetes and hypertension. These diseases account for three quarters of all deaths across the Pacific archipelago, which includes  Micronesia.

With increasing population growth and a decline in subsistence farming, the demand for food in the Pacific Islands is increasingly being met by imports. Imported staples such as rice and wheat flour are replacing locally-grown carbohydrates. The growing prevalence of canned/processed foods and other poor quality protein such as mutton flaps, turkey tails and Spam further contributes to the health crisis.

Poverty is the principal cause of hunger and hunger perpetuates poverty. Poor people’s lack of access to resources results from extremely unequal income distribution the world over and within specific countries.

In 2008, the World Bank estimated that 20 percent of the households in FSM live on $1.25 a day or less. Unemployment is rampant. More than 50% of the available work force of Chuuk is unemployed. Chuuk has been included in the list of top ten countries with the lowest literacy rate. The United Nations has declared that Pacific Island countries including the FSM be placed on a “state of health emergency” due to an alarming increase of non-communicable diseases (NCD).

Having assessed the people’s situation and in response to their felt needs, The Salvation Army in Chuuk, has offered Integrated Literacy and Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production Programs as of 2014.

Major Lilia Macayana and Advisory Board Chair Linda Mori Hartman join schoolchildren in celebrating advances in nutrition and literacy programs. 

INTEGRATED LITERACY, NUTRITION, FOOD PRODUCTION

In the first year of implementing a literacy program, we devoted two hours a day, four days a week after school to hold remedial classes. These were designed especially for children who have difficulty learning. We also began holding literacy classes for adults. Recently, Major Lilia Macayana, FSM coordinator for resource development, reported that “Our literacy and after school classes continue to attract boys and girls who want to learn how to read and write in English. Many are newcomers and most of them received Jesus in their hearts as their personal Savior. We don’t only teach them reading and writing, but we also teach them good manners and right conduct and faith in God.”

Most of the children who attended our after school classes now attend Sunday school at the corps. Many of their parents also come to the Army on Sundays with their children.

To extend the impact and benefit of the programs, we arranged with the principal of Iras Demonstration Elementary School to integrate nutrition and food production in their school curriculum for seventh and eighth grade students for the school year 2016-2017. By influencing the children, they become agents for transformation in their homes and community. Our plan is to implement this program every school year.

Major Jaime Macayana Federated States of Micronesia resource development coordinator, presents framing tools to students of the Iras Demo School as the corps officers of the Chuuk Corps, Majors Steven and Hermas Pearl look on.

Economic growth, especially broad based growth in agriculture and the rural economy, is a necessary condition for reducing poverty and hunger. More than 75% of Chuuk’s population lives in rural and remote areas. At least once a month, while the children are in class, their parents receive training in proper nutrition, food preparation and cooking. We then serve the food the parents have prepared to the children. Each week, we demonstrate food production through gardening in the parents’ own backyards so they can put what they learn into practice.

The practical steps the Army has taken to promote agriculture and rural development has resulted in improved economic stability and healthy living. Malnutrition among children has been greatly reduced and consequently young people are able to enjoy and benefit from their education.

Through this integrated approach, our children have gained weight and their parents who are overweight lost weight as well.

The Salvation Army in Chuuk is grateful to program partners who support these projects, including Dr. Lolita Ragus, researcher/extension specialist for the College of Micronesia at Chuuk, the Parent Teacher Association of the Iras Demo Elementary School and members of the Army’s Advisory Board.

Major Jaime Macayana is FSM Coordinator for Resource Development.

Charter Member

Victoria Huntley was facing knee surgery within a few months. Following that procedure, she knew that extensive water therapy would be required. Of course she had several options, but one project still under construction at the time appealed to her—the Ray & Joan Kroc Corps Community Center in Quincy, Illinois.

“I became a Kroc member even before it opened,” Victoria says. “But I ended up involved in much more than just the water therapy.”

Victoria, whose hometown is Benham, Kentucky, is well-known in Quincy for most of her life, having worked for the Quincy School District; where she is affectionately known as “Miss Vickie.”

“After my surgery I started my therapy in a class called ‘Upstream.’ The exercise was great, plus I formed new friendships,” Victoria says.

She soon signed up for other classes, including “Fit For Life,” “Stretch and Strengthen,” ‘Zumba,” and “Dancin’ Through The Decades.”

To satisfy her interest in art, Victoria joined the “Watercolor And Acrylic” class.

Victoria’s involvement grew further when she joined Women’s Ministries, and formed a Cancer Support Group called “Life With Spice Cancer Survivors.”

Major Cheryl Miller (left) loves the fact that Victoria Huntley’s growing interest in the Quincy Kroc has led to membership in the Army’s Women’s Auxiliary.

Every Christmas season, Victoria volunteers at the familiar Red Kettles to ring bells, and also helps with filling and distributing Christmas food baskets. She joined the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary and particularly enjoys the “Dress An Angel” program, as well as assisting in fundraisers throughout the year for the Auxiliary.

“I have always believed in community service, and volunteered for many years,” she explains, “and after joining the Kroc center I became very interested in the Salvation Army projects.”

“Miss Vickie” adds that the center offers unlimited opportunities to improve her health issues, and it also provides for her spiritual wellbeing.

“I go to the Kroc for the fellowship, and I receive the triple-benefits of exercise, knowledge, and health at the same time!”

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor

A True Knitting Yarn

There’s nothing new about knitting clubs. Groups of women and men have formed over the last century—and continue today—to enjoy fellowship, to hone their craft, and even to express their patriotism.

This has never been truer than during times of war. Dating over 100 years ago during World War I, “knitting circles” sprang up across Britain, Canada, and the USA to stitch a unique contribution to the war effort.

The Salvation Army was in the forefront of hosting such groups, a movement that peaked during World War II, especially in the United Kingdom.

The May 3, 1941 edition of The Times (London) reported that 73,000 garments to date had been produced by Salvation Army knitting circles, of which there seemed to be “one in every town.” One Salvation Army knitting club (not identified specifically by the article), however, had an additional distinction—making it an iRony of note.

Knitting circles sprang up as much for morale as for practical purposes. Only music rivaled knitting as a pastime to boost spirits both at home and abroad during both World Wars.

Parents, spouses, and even children found knitting as a constructive and practical way to connect to their loved ones who were “in the fight” far away from home.

As soon as hostilities began in September 1939, knitters who had busied themselves during “the war to end all wars” once again armed themselves with needles—not as weapons, but as instruments of compassion. This time, they were joined literally by thousands more knitters, beginners and amateurs.

In his book Crown Of Glory, Crown Of Thorns, General Shaw Clifton cites a report from All The World (April-June 1942) that “by mid-1942 a million articles of knitted clothing had been handled” in the war effort.

“This figure doubled,” the General adds, “within a further two years (as) the Army shipped goods worth £500,000 in 97,384 cases and 465 sacks and bales in 490 ships.”

Gifts came from Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, West Indies, and India.

Not only did these cherished items keep soldiers, sailors, and airmen warmer—it boosted their morale by receiving “a touch of home.”

Knitters plied their yarn not only for their military folk, but also for others who seldom heard from home at all. Even young schoolgirls knitted mittens, helmets, socks, and scarves for those close to the fighting.

But it didn’t stop at the front lines—many knitted for orphans and destitute families that had been bombed out or had lost family members in battle. Special depots were established to receive and forward the knitted garments for distribution in the UK and overseas.

Beginner knitters made mufflers. Schoolkids made simple 9” squares that would later be sewn together into blankets.

Even those who couldn’t get the hang of “purling” could make simple bandages—15’-20’ lengths joined together in garter stitch with 100% cotton yarn.

Finally, this was a ministry to one’s self as well—knitters confined to an underground shelter during air-raids were often seen stitching away to keep their minds off of the deadly blitzkrieg above.

That one Salvation Army knitting circle unique from all the rest? Well, it’s not uncommon to hear of a blind man or woman who, with a sensitive skill in their fingers have mastered the art.

What you might find iRonic, however, is an entire circle of blind knitters bonded together for the expressed purpose of doing their part—freeing up precious resources needed elsewhere.

Major Frank Duracher, Assistant Editor